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How Do I Know When It’s Time for a Water Heater Replacement?

Water heater replacement depends on age, condition, and budget. Enjoy the tips below from the experts at ServiceMark Heating Cooling & Plumbing on whether it’s time for a water heater replacement.

The home water heater is a non-issue UNTIL you get hit with that first icy shower in the morning, or see a giant puddle in the basement when you come home from work. Then you must think fast: repair or replace?


If it’s a conventional storage-tank water heater nearing the end of its 10 to 12-year average life-span, replacement is the obvious way to proceed. New models are up to 20% more efficient and can save up to $700 in energy costs over the projected life of the new unit. However, if your water heater is only a few years old, repair may be the way to go. Not sure whether to repair or replace?

Here’s how to decide:

How to Self-Diagnose Water Heater Problems

Conventional water heaters are simple. Cold water enters the tank and is heated by an electric element, a gas burner or an oil-fired burner. A thermostat regulates the temperature, in the tank, usually between 120 to 140 degrees. As the water heats, pressure builds inside the tank. When you turn on a tap, pressure sends hot water out of the faucet.

Because water heaters contain a few moving parts, only a few things can go wrong.

  • The pilot light on the gas water heater flickers out.
  • Circuit breaker for electric heater trips.
  • Burner or heating element fails.
  • Thermostat breaks.
  • Relief Valve sticks.

Repairing or replacing any of those parts is relatively inexpensive and a quality plumber can do the job for $150 to $500.  But if the tank is more than 10 years old, or if it’s leaking, a new water tank likely is in your future.

When a Replacement is Your Only Option

Over time, water minerals react with steel, corroding water heater tanks from the inside out. When water heaters spring a leak, usually at the bottom of the tank, repair is no longer an option for you.

On the bright side, today’s modern water heaters are far more energy-efficient than older models. Manufacturers now inject foam insulation between the tank and its outer shell, resulting in higher heat retention. New glass liners make tanks less prone to corrosion. All of these changes do make the UNIT LARGER, so your HVAC contractor or plumber will have to carefully measure and size-up the space where the new unit will be placed.

You’ll pay up to $1,500 to purchase and install a standard new gas-fired or electric residential water heater. A high-efficiency model that meets Energy Star standards saves up to 20% in energy costs and may cost slightly more.

Tankless, Heat pump, and Solar Water Heaters offer even bigger savings! These products could cost three to five times more to buy and install, so consider payback carefully.

Good news: The plumbing experts at ServiceMark can repair or replace your water heater!

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Maintain Your Water Heater

Whether you repair or replace, water heaters will perform better and last longer if you flush the tank once a year to remove sediment. This creates a bonus for you because, without all that gunk inside, your water heater will operate more efficiently, saving you money.

Also, check the anode rod — sometimes called the sacrificial rod — every three years. The anode rod, which is an aluminum or magnesium probe inside the tank, serves to collect corrosive elements and should be replaced when caked or eaten away. A new one costs about $30. The plumbers at ServiceMark Heating Cooling & Plumbing do strongly suggest that these maintenance functions be performed by a professional.

If you have any questions concerning your home’s water heating system or need pricing of repair versus replacement, simply call ServiceMark and we will be happy to assist you.

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